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What Is An XLR Cable?

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If you want to get into audio or start recording in your own home, one of the most common cables you'll come across is the XLR cable.

How’s it going, everyone? Sean here with Inlustrus Audio. Today, we’re going to start a new mini-series on home studio basics. This series will teach composers, audio producers, engineers, beat makers, and other audio enthusiasts how to build and work in a home studio. It will help you grow your brand, build trust with clients, and enable you to produce or record right in your own living room. So let’s get started!

If you want to get into audio or start recording in your own home, one of the most common cables you’ll come across is the XLR cable. But how do they work, and why do we use them so much in pro audio?

XLR cables are used in professional audio for a reason. Whether you’re playing live, recording professionally in a studio, or jamming out in your own living room, these cables are built to deliver quality. It all starts with how they are made. Inside the casing, you’ll find three wires that help carry the signal and reduce noise.

XLR cables are known as balanced cables in professional audio, while cables with two wires, like normal TS cables, are known as unbalanced cables. An unbalanced cable is more susceptible to noise, while a balanced cable like the XLR helps reduce and even cancel out most of the noise that gets picked up as the audio travels through the cable.

When you plug an XLR cable into a source, such as a microphone, and the audio travels down the wire, the positive and negative wires are out of phase with each other. This cancels out the audio traveling through the wire, making it unheard. However, noise can still be picked up by the wires as the signal travels down the XLR cable, but the shielding does its best to prevent it. If noise is picked up by both wires in phase, it can be heard.

At the end of the cable, the wires flip the polarity again, so the audio source becomes completely in phase and can be heard. The noise that was picked up by both wires now has flipped polarity, canceling out any noise that was picked up by the audio signal. This is why XLR cables can go up to 50 feet without being as susceptible to noise as unbalanced cables.

Thanks for watching today’s video! If you found value or learned something new, please like and subscribe below. It helps support this channel and enables me to make more videos like this one. Feel free to leave any questions you have about XLR cables or cables in general in the comments, and I’ll do my best to reply soon. Thanks again, and see you in the next video!

Sean Crone

Sean Crone

Sean Crone is an audio post production engineer based in Rexburg, Idaho. He has extensive experience in field recording, dialogue editing, sound design, and working as a re-recording engineer. Sean takes special care to make sure the audio in his client's films helps support the story first.

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